IT director who ate nothing but chips and roast potatoes for 40 years 'cured' after an hour's hypnosis

9th Jul 18 | Real Life

Stuart Turner, a high-profile professional from Devon, developed a food phobia as a toddler and ate only a small selection of 'safe' foods

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A high-flying IT director who lived on a diet of chips and roast potatoes for more than 40 years, is gradually learning to enjoy other food,  after just an hour of hypnotherapy.

Devon-born Stuart Turner, 45, would feel a sudden onset of ‘fight-or-flight’ panic when faced with anything other than his daily fare, which consisted of cereal for breakfast, bread for lunch and chips – with the occasional addition of bacon or sausages – for dinner.

Stuart, whose career means he is often needed in high-powered meetings, dreaded business lunches – often resorting to inventive excuses to avoid revealing his unusual eating habits, saying:  “Work events were an absolute nightmare.”

Stuart and wife Lorraine have been together since the age of 16 (Collect/PA Real Life)

He continued: “I didn’t want to go, but I had to and then made every excuse under the sun, as to why I wasn’t eating.

“Unless someone was a close friend, I didn’t want to explain the truth.

“This also meant my wife, Lorraine, and I very rarely entertained, except with a small group of close friends.”

Stuart eating his former food favourite of chips and sausages (Collect/PA Real Life)

But, incredibly, after visiting a hypnotherapist in London, Stuart, who now lives in Spring Lake, Michigan, USA, with housewife Lorraine, 45, and their twin daughters Charlotte and Sophie, 15, has conquered his fears and is now eating things that would have made him retch.

He said: “Now small things feel like big discoveries for me. We were in London yesterday and we went to Nando’s, something which I never would have done before the hypnosis.”

Stuart’s problems with food began as a toddler, with him refusing to eat anything but chips.

“At first, my parents thought I was just picky,” explained Stuart. “My mum, Trish, tried to force me, encourage me and even bribe me to eat other things, but  I’d physically gag and break out in a sweat.”

When his dysfunctional relationship with food persisted into his teens, it became clear that Stuart’s aversion was not just fussiness, but was a clinical phobia.

“Mum took me to doctors, counsellors and psychiatrists, but none of them really understood what was going on,” said Stuart.

Stuart as a teenager (Collect/PA Real Life)

He continued: “I know now that it’s a fight-or-flight reaction. Something in the past, which I’ve never been able to recall, triggered my mind to see food as a danger. So, I built up a group of ‘safe foods’ which I knew I would feel ok with.”

Stuart’s limited diet for over 40 years consisted solely of chips, roast potatoes, crisps, bread, cereal, bacon and sausages.

“The thought of anything else would make me shudder, although, strangely, I used to quite like the smell of certain foods. Pizza, for instance, smelled great – I just couldn’t get it anywhere near my mouth, or I’d start to feel panicked and nauseous.”

Stuart and the family enjoying a meal (Collect/PA Real Life)

When he started dating Lorraine, who he met at 16 and married 1998, she soon noticed his strange diet.

She said:  “We’d gone out to a few fast food places together and he’d just have chips each time, which obviously didn’t seem very peculiar in that particular setting.

“But then, after several dates, I said, ‘Aren’t you going to have anything else to eat?’ That was when he told me about his phobia.”

Stuart with toddler twins Charlotte and Sophie (Collect/PA Real Life)

She continued: “I think he was worried that I’d find it really weird, but it didn’t put me off, and 30 years later, I’m still here!”

Lorraine was concerned, however, in case Stuart’s food phobias influenced their twins’ diet.

“I really love food and I can’t imagine living on the kind of diet he did, it kind of shocked me.”

She continued: “This meant that I always ate with the kids and then when Stuart came home from work, I’d make him something separately.”

But finally, after a lifetime of following a heavily restricted diet, with all its associated problems, last year Stuart decided that enough was enough.

After witnessing the astonishing results produced by hypnotist Felix Economakis on the TV programme,  Freaky Eaters, Stuart contacted him and booked an appointment.

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He said: “Felix was very good and made me feel very calm. You feel relaxed and he talks to the subconscious mind about this blockage.

“It isn’t at all like what you see on TV and I can remember everything he said. He doesn’t say something to you so that afterwards you come out eating a raw onion thinking it’s an apple!”

A year on from his hypnotic treatment, Stuart is experimenting with a varied diet for the first time – eating food he never imagined he would be able to consume.

Stuart now enjoys burgers which before he never would have touched (Collect/PA Real Life)

He now enjoys pineapple, grapes and burgers with cheese and ketchup – all things he would have been repulsed by before.

He said: “It’s a gradual process and I’m trying new things all the time.

“I have good days and bad days. Sometimes if I’ve had a stressful day at work I may not want to try new things.

Stuart has a high-profile job in IT (Collect/PA Real Life)

“I have to be careful not to revert back to my old ways, because after 40-odd years of in-built programming, it’s easily done.”

Felix Economakis, who runs the Heath Clinic in north west London, where Stuart went for hypnotherapy, said food phobias are extremely common.

He explained: “This condition is really not as uncommon as you might think. It’s right up there with spider-phobia.

“Usually people develop this fear of food when food gets the blame for some other kind of trauma or illness, and the brain begins to associate that food with danger. What I do is lead the brain to understand that food is not the threat.”

© Press Association 2018